As we know, with cinemas closed, a trip to the cinema isn’t on the cards right now, but perhaps you are not sure what films you would like to watch as a family? Here are our up-to-date guides of family films to watch, to keep the whole family entertained!
For when we venture back out to the cinema, the below film guides are written by Mike Davies especially with families and kids in mind. Everything from small scale films to great blockbusters for all the family PLUS trailers for upcoming films! Please note that not all 12A films are appropriate for younger children. Let’s Go With The Children offers a guide to what’s suitable for family viewing.
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Pixar’s latest takes a familiar coming-of-age scenario about siblings learning to understand each other. The film also deals with loss and hurt and is set in a fantasy world where magic once ruled but has fallen into disuse with the rise of technology. Now unicorns scavenge in New Mushroomton’s dustbins and dragons are family pets.
The protagonists are elf brothers Ian (Tom Holland), an awkward, insecure teenager overshadowed by his extrovert older brother Barley (Chris Pratt), a role-playing fantasy gamer who believes the games are based on old realities and drives a battered van he’s dubbed Gwniver. Together, they live with their widowed mom, Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), who’s dating centaur cop Colt Bronco (Mel Rodriguez).
On Ian’s 16th birthday, mum presents him with something left by their late father, which turns out to be a wizard’s staff, a gem and instructions on how to bring dad back to life for a day. Naturally, Barley assumes he has the necessary magic powers, but it turns out that they actually run in Ian’s DNA. Unfortunately, he’s not quite up to the task, leaving dad as just a pair of legs, prompting the brothers to set off on a quest to find a second gemstone to complete the spell and finally meet and say goodbye to their father before the sunsets.
So, dressing the trousers up with a floppy torso and sunglasses, the pair hit the road as the film unfolds into an episodic quest. There’s some delightful moments, including a disguise cloak that only works if the wearer tells the truth (making for an awkward brotherly moment), as Ian learns to become more confident and eventually, in a tearjerking moment, realise the strength of his relationship with Barley who’s essentially tried to be the dad he never had. 109 mins
LGWTC Guidance: Onward may not reach Toy Story’s emotional heights, but it’s still way ahead of its rivals in the family animation stakes
The Call Of The Wild (PG)
Published back in 1903, Jack London’s wilderness novel became an instant classic and, while less read these days, has been adapted for the screen five times. This, the sixth, is the live action debut by How to Train Your Dragon director Chris Sanders, though it should be said from the start that all of the animals are CGI. Not that you would know it.
When it opens, Buck (a motion capture performance by Terry Notary), is the huge and highly intelligent St. Bernard/Scotch Collie pet of a Santa Clara judge in 1890s California, his exuberance often causing chaos. Then, one night, he’s dognapped and sold on to become part of a sled team for gold prospectors in the Yukon, Alaska. Arriving in Skagway, it’s here he first encounters grizzled old timer John Thornton (Harrison Ford, who also narrates), who’s abandoned civilization following the death of his young son, and is bought by Perraut who, along with wife Françoise, runs a mail-delivery route for the U.S. government, and becomes part of his dog sled team, eventually progressing to become lead dog after defeating the resentful alpha male husky, Spitz.
When, after some exhilarating sled scenes, an avalanche and a rescue from a river, the mail route is scrapped, Buck’s path once again crosses paths with Thornton who rescues him from his latest master, a cruel city type (Dan Stevens) who has come in search of gold with his wife (Karen Gillan), but clearly has no idea of how to survive in the outdoors.
The film now spends its remaining time with the tender and often amusing bonding between Buck and Thornton, as the former helps the latter reconnect with life, while Buck, feeling his canine heritage, also pals up with the local timber wolf pack, among them his white four-footed romantic interest. Meanwhile, Dan is on their trail bent on revenge.
The film deviates hugely from the book towards the end, but otherwise remains a faithful adaptation, certainly in spirit, and, even though he’s a digital creation, Buck is utterly endearing while the landscapes are often breathtaking even though they too are largely CGI. A real family treat. 100 mins
LGWTC Guidance: Heed the call
Sonic The Hedgehog (PG)
This is the latest video game to become a live action feature film. After a quick back story explaining who this furry blue alien speedball is and why he’s on earth, it gets on with the film’s two narratives, the mismatched buddy one as the lonely Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwarz) accidentally causes a major power outage across the Pacific Northwest that sees him teaming up with Tom Wachowski (James Marsden), the sheriff in small town of Green Hills who wants to move to San Francisco so he can get to save somebody’s life. The second is, of course, the pursuit of the hero by the crazy megalomaniac bad guy, here cyber-genius Dr Robotnik (Jim Carrey in) and his drones, sent in by the military to capture the alien source.
All of which, after Tom pops Sonic with a tranquillizer dart that causes his bag of transporter rings to fall through a portal, means they have to head for San Francisco and recover them.
It romps along with some pretty decent visual effects and a constant stream of rapid fire quips from Sonic along with amusing in-jokes like him watching Speed on TV and reading Flash comics, as well as a message about the need for human contact, it ends with a coda that promises a sequel that seems likely (and welcomingly) to happen. 99 mins
LGWTC Guidance: It may not be supersonic, but it’s infinitely more fun than anyone could have imagined.
One for parents with tweenage girls, this is the latest adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel about an inveterate matchmaker who, in trying to pair up others, is oblivious to her own feelings. A faithful rendition, it’s stuffed with familiar faces, headed up by Anya Taylor-Joy bringing the right amount of insufferable smugness, snobbery and pout while remaining sympathetic to her blindness regarding the inappropriateness of her self-appointed meddling in others’ lives. Case in point being her less socially elevated hero-worshipping friend Harriet (Mia Goth), a student at the local boarding school, who she dissuades from accepting a proposal from tenant farmer Robert Martin convinced that the preening village preacher, Mr Elton, loves her. It’s just the first of several misreadings that end up causing people heartache, while her cutting comment to the scatterbrained Miss Bates (Miranda Hart) reinforces her unthinking lack of sensitivity to those she considers beneath her.
All this plays out with sparkling wit and charm that draws both the humour and social commentary from Austen’s novel, the chemistry among the leads complemented by superb support turns from Bill Nighy as Emma’s hypochondriac father and Tanya Reynolds as the pretentious new Mrs.Elton. 125 mins
LGWTC Guidance: A candybox delight to the eye as well as enjoyable romantic fluff with just a pinch of spice.
Iron Man star Robert Downey Jr swaps technology for zoology in the latest film about the vet with the ability to talk to animals.
Having withdrawn from human society following the death of his wife while she was off on adventure, Dolittle is holed up in the palatial sanctuary gifted him by queen, his only companions being is menagerie of animals, along them Poly the macaw (Emma Thompson), scaredy cat gorilla Chee-Chee (Rami Malek), polar bear Yoshi (John Cena) and bespectacled dog Jip (Tom Holland). However, his hermit-like world is shattered with the arrival of, first, young Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett) with a squirrel he accidentally shot and who determines to become his apprentice and then the tweenage Lady Rose (Carmel Laniado) who has been sent by the sick queen (Jessie Buckley who basically has little to do but lie in bed) to enlist his aid. Told that if she dies, he’ll lose the sanctuary, he dutifully sets off (on an protesting ostrich) to the palace and discovers the queen has been poisoned and the only remedy involves voyaging to an unknown island to fetch the legendary fruit of the Eden Tree, the same adventure that took his wife’s life.
There’s assorted encounters and adventures at sea and on land, variously involving whales, a dragon and a tiger (Ralph Fiennes) with a grudge, along with ungainly and largely unfunny slapstick not to mention highly non-Victorian dialogue like ‘bro’ and ‘code red’. There’s some positive messages about dealing with grief and anxiety and about being kind to animals and opening up to others and kids will probably giggle over the flatulence jokes, but, as entertainment goes, this Dolittle really should be called Does Little. 101 mins
LGWTC Guidance: It shouldn’t happen to a vet
The Personal History of David Copperfield (PG)
After the BBC’s sweary adaptation of A Christmas Carol, director Armando Iannucci’s take on Dickens’ sprawling class-themed classic comes as a true joy. While not entirely faithful to the original in its narrative, even in its darker moments, it’s close enough not to quibble over the fate of assorted characters.
The story is framed by David presenting his life story in a theatre, often appearing as an adult observing flashbacks to his childhood. Following his journey to find where he fits in and becoming a nascent author along the way, the film’s populated with larger than life characters, from his cruel stepfather Murdstone, Steerforth, the student friend who betrays his trust, and the obsequious Uriah Heep (Ben Wishaw) to such eccentrics as the kindly houseboat-dwelling Houskeeper Peggotty and her husband (Paul Whitehuse), the forever debt-ridden Mr Micawber (Peter Capaldi), temperamental donkey-hating aunt benefactor Betsey Trotwood (Tilda Swinton), her sightly deranged cousin Mr Dick (Hugh Laurie) and Dora (Morfydd Clark, who also plays David’s mother) as the bubble-brained daughter of his employer with whom he falls in love.
Sprightly delivered with a delightful sense of whimsy and many laugh-out-loud moments, with David variously referred to as Trotwood Copperfield, Daisy and Doady by different characters, this is an absolute joy. 119 mins
LGWTC Guidance: A Dickens of a good time
Jumanji: The Next Level (12A)
The gang’s all back when they get together to celebrate Bethany’s return from her study abroad. However, Spencer never shows. It is set sometime after the last film. Going to his uncle’s house, they discover he’s gone back into Jumanji and decide to follow and rescue him.
Greeted as before by game host Nigel (Rhys Darby, they learn that this time they have to save Jumanji from Jurgen the Brutal (Rory McGann), a warlord who killed Bravestone’s parents and has stolen a precious stone and unless it is again exposed to the sun, Jumanji and its people are doomed.
In many ways, this serves up much the same as before.
Again directed by Jake Kasden, it romps along through a series of set pieces, including a floating rope bridge encounter with a horde of angry mandrills and a desert chase pursued by a flock of ostriches before they arrive at Jurgen’s fortress, all down to their last life, during which further amusing avatar swaps occur (notably between Ruby and Sheldon), including the introduction of lockpicking Ming (Awkafeena), a whole new character, and Bethany finally puts in a very unexpected appearance along with Alex (Colin Hanks), the man they rescued last time round.
The film takes a while to find its feet, but once in the swing it romps along in hugely entertaining fashion. Make sure you hang around for when, having all declared they’ll never go back, a mid-credits scene suggests that, for the next sequel, they won’t have to. 123 mins
From Friday March 27th
Directed by Niki Caro who made teen girl empowerment classic Whale Rider, the latest live action remake of a Disney animation, this tells how, to uphold the family honour and save her aged, infirm father from being conscripted by the Imperial Army, a young Chinese girl (Liu Yifei) poses as a man to join the arm and fight against the invader threatening their lands. The trailer looks spectacular and, while there’s no wisecracking dragon this time, there are appearances by martial arts legends Jason Scott Lee and Jet Li, promising to be the best and most thrilling live remake yet. tbc minutes
Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway (PG)
With James Cordon back as Peter and Margot Robbie as Flopsy, the sequel to the 2018 film, finds Peter worried that, if Bea and Thomas have children, there won’t be a place for bunnies in their lives. So he and the others set off to the big city, naturally leading to all sorts of adventures and mayhem in the process. 85 mins
Not all 12A films are appropriate for younger children. Let’s Go With The Children offers a guide to what’s suitable for family viewing.